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Latest Music and Book Reviews
Fear No More by The Afters Fear No More by The Afters
What You Need to Know:
I’ve long enjoyed the hook-filled and emotive songs by The Afters, starting with...
Singalong 4 (Live) by Phil Singalong 4 (Live) by Phil
What You Need to Know:
Leading corporate worship nationwide, Phil...
People (Live) by Hillsong UNITED People (Live) by Hillsong UNITED
What You Need to Know:
Following up their standout worship album Wonder, which featured their popular...

Showing 1-10 of 418 |   View Next 10 Album and Book Reviews
Well Done | Posted May-29-2019
What You Need to Know:

I’ve long enjoyed the hook-filled and emotive songs by The Afters, starting with their 2005 debut “Beautiful Love” and continuing with “Ocean Wide,” “Light Up the Sky,” “Every Good Thing,” “Broken Hallelujah” and “Battles” from their first five albums. In speaking with the band for previous behind the song devotionals, they’ve been sharing their hearts and processing some tough circumstances through their music. Fear No More is their sixth album, and was preceded by the hit song “Well Done” that proclaims, “What will it be like, when I come into Your glory, standing in the presence of a Love so beautiful.” In the vein of “Live on Forever,” these songs help remind us that we weren’t made for this world. As followers of Jesus who have put all of their hope in Christ, we know that eternity in Heaven awaits us when we leave this fallen world and remember, “I will fear no more!”

 

What it Sounds Like:

This album once again demonstrates multi-talented musicianship with creative, insightful lyrics and ear-grabbing melodies. The vibe of the album is one of the highlights with the signature musicality and harmony-filled vocals layered throughout every track. The album features a soothing and worshipful alt-rock style resembling the latest offerings by NEEDTOBREATHE, for KING & COUNTRY, and Mat Kearney. This entire project has a Brit-rock tinged vibe. I’m really engaged by the sincere and soothing vocals and the prayerful lyrics throughout the album.

 

Spiritual Highlights:

The album features the emotionally powerful track “I Will Fear No More,” which is one of the overall highlights. It's message is found throughout scripture and is totally relatable: “You are Greater than the battle raging in my mind. I will trust You, Lord. I will fear no more.” “Lightning” is easily one of my top songs by The Afters with it's upbeat hook and infectious melody. I can’t get enough of the vibe and biblical message of the song, especially the lyrics, I got that joy down in my heart, I got Your peace inside of me, I got that love filling me up, I got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart, lightning, lightning.” Another biblical sentiment is found in “Well Done,” which will have you singing along, “What will it be like when I hear that sound all of heaven's angels crying out, singing holy, holy, holy are You Lord.”  That heaven-focused theme can also be heard in “What Home Feels Like.” God has made us new creations in Christ! Another eternally minded sentiment of submission to Him is captured in “Wait” (featuring MercyMe), which sings: “Wait, I can hardly wait, to hear Your sweet voice say, you’ve done well My good and faithful son.”



Best Song on the Record:

“Well Done” speaks to me in my most emotional moments of needing to hear God’s truth sung over me. “Lightning” is the type of song I find myself singing throughout the day, and one of my daily prayers is to ask God to indwell in my family and I with His spiritual gifts. I love the build to the lyrics “Now I'm dancing in the rain since You called out my name, You came like lightning and saved my soul”. Personally, my favorite song is the title track, “I Will Fear No More.” I have adopted the anthem as my daily prayer: “No power can come against me, 'Cause You have overcome, No darkness can overwhelm me, 'Cause You've already won.”

 

For Fans Of:

NEEDTOBREATHE, Switchfoot, MercyMe, for KING & COUNTRY, Tenth Avenue North

 

Final Word:

Fear No More is a great collection of confessional and authentic expressions of faith, and yet another "best" album from The Afters. Once again the songs are poignant and powerful, and in recording the new tunes the band brings a more seasoned level of musicianship, intensity and intentionality. This album challenges me to think about how I’m living out my faith. Every song released by The Afters completely focuses me as a listener on joining in praise, worship and adoration. These are very passionate songs sung with vocal sincerity and reverence, with biblically based lyrics. These songs will certainly connect with listeners and showcase the multi-talented band’s trademark balance of vocal tenderness and lyrical intensity, beautiful and stirring musical arrangements and, above all, songs with a sense of hope and inspiration. This is sure to be one of my top albums of the year and it is truly “well done.”

 

Listen to Fear No More on Apple Music and Spotify.

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Favorite Live Worship Album | Posted May-15-2019
What You Need to Know:

Leading corporate worship nationwide, Phil Wickham is known for hits such as “At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh),” “This is Amazing Grace”,Your Love Awakens Me” and “Living Hope.” He describes the truths he is learning with a powerful and poignant voice through enthusiastic and passionate cries of worship. Following his stellar offering Living Hope which was my top worship album of 2018, Wickham returns with Singalong 4.

 

What it Sounds Like:

The first time I heard Phil Wickham's song "Grace" from his self-titled major label debut, I was hooked by his enthusiastic and reverent songs, layered with a Brit-rock musical vibe. I've felt that he's improved with each new album and Singalong 4 takes me to another realm of holiness and thirsting for God's presence. Phil Wickham has breathed several new worship anthems into the Church ("You're Beautiful," "Cannons," "Because of Your Love," "At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh)," “This is Amazing Grace,” “My All in All,” “Stand in Awe,” “Living Hope”). We sing all of those songs at my church on a regular basis, and if you liked the studio versions of “Living Hope,” “Great Things,” “Anthem” and “Till I Found You,” you’ll love these anointed live recordings.

 

What it Sounds Like:

"You've been faithful through every storm / You'll be faithful forevermore / You have done great things / And I know You will do it again / For Your promise is "Yes and amen" are the biblical cries of worship in the heartfelt and soul-stirring song "Great Things." You’ll also instantly “singalong” with “Tethered,” “Till I Found You,” “Anthem" and "Living Hope," which features guest vocals from Bethel Music’s Brian and Jenn Johnson. Each song includes tender and powerful vocals and takes listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about our faith in Jesus. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. A sincere desire to experience the presence of God can be heard in every song, with expressions like “The cross has spoken / I am forgiven / The King of Kings calls me His own / Beautiful Savior / I'm Yours forever / Jesus Christ, my living hope" in the standout instant classic “Living Hope.”

 

Best Song on the Record:

I’ve been blessed by “Living Hope” since I first heard the song. Each version of the song is better in my opinion, with this one being the most dynamic and exciting yet. The song is a biblically-inspired standout, co-written with Bethel Music’s Brian Johnson, and the lyrics proclaim the cry of my heart. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album. There are several other standout songs, including a gorgeous medley of “Tremble / What A Beautiful Name” and the worship classic, “Heart of Worship” featuring Matt Redman. If you've always enjoyed Wickham’s corporate worship anthems, you're in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance of upbeat and reflective songs and it is chock-full of songs for the Church as well as songs for personal reflection and worship.



For Fans Of:

Bethel Music, Jeremy Riddle, Elevation Worship, Jesus Culture



Final Word: 

This album provides listeners with songs that proclaim acceptance of God’s love in any circumstance. Singalong 4 provides words of appreciation and adoration of God. Phil’s enthusiastic and reverent style of writing and singing praise and worship songs has consistently been a draw for me. His prayerful sentiments are consistently filled with his personal adoration of God - I've felt that he's improved with each new album and this is my favorite live worship album. It is completely worshipful in the style of Phil's previous offerings of enthusiastic praise and worship, and every single song could be added to your Sunday morning worship set.

 

Listen to Singalong 4 on Spotify or Apple Music.

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All-time Favorite Hillsong UNITED Album | Posted April-25-2019
What You Need to Know:

Following up their standout worship album Wonder, which featured their popular song "So Will I (100 Billion X)," churches and believers around the world celebrate the release of People (Live) on April 26th. I have consistently been blessed by each album from Hillsong UNITED with their staples "Hosanna," "Lead Me To The Cross," "Oceans," "Touch the Sky" and "Scandal of Grace." All of these are being sung at church worship services worldwide and putting the Word of God into the minds, mouths, and hearts of Christians everywhere. Don't miss out on this incredible worship album - it is one of the best of the year and my all-time favorite Hillsong UNITED album. Once again they have released their newest "best" album. People is about proclaiming our dependence on God and crying out in awe and wonder for His presence. Every moment completely focuses me as a listener on joining in praise, worship, and adoration of our beautiful King Jesus.

 

What it Sounds Like:

If you’ve always enjoyed Hillsong UNITED’s corporate worship anthems, you’re in for a treat with this album. It has a great balance of male and female-led vocals and it is chock-full of songs for the Church, and songs for personal reflection and worship. Many of the songs are arranged in a very sing-able and catchy style, such as the Taya Smith and Aodhan King led “Whole Heart (Hold Me Now)” that is filled with great statements of faith, celebrating our freedom in Christ: "Healed and forgiven, Look where my chains are now, Death has no hold on me, 'Cause Your grace holds that ground and Your grace holds me now." You’ll be raising your hands and heart in worship with the gorgeous “Starts and Ends,” which invites listeners to “lay your burdens down.”



Spiritual Highlights:

“As You Find Me” features lead vocals from UNITED’s Tulele Faletolu, who joins with Taya Smith’s accompanying vocals in a declaration of God’s unrelenting love and grace for all humanity. The stark and majestically beautiful song showcases the group's beautiful ability to provide emotional messages rooted in biblical truth. As a father of three daughters and a chosen son of my Heavenly Father, I can't listen to this gorgeous song without being moved. The picture of God's unconditional love for us after all that we've done wrong is profoundly captured in the chorus: "You love me as You find me.”  “Whole Heart (Hold Me Now)” reminds us of our standing before God. We know what love is because God is love. He showed us His love when Jesus laid down His life for us, and He gave us His whole heart. You can make the lyrics of this song your prayer: "Once I was broken, But You loved my whole heart through, Sin has no hold on me, 'Cause Your grace holds me now."



Best Song on the Record:

There are several standout songs on the album including “Starts and Ends” and “Good Grace.” “As You Find Me” is an instant classic, and “Ready or Not” stirs my heart into an immediate state of worship as well as taking it up a notch with the Brit-rock guitar riffs. “Another in the Fire” is biblical and congregational. “Clean” is gorgeously led by Taya Smith. A song that I can’t get out of my head is “Whole Heart (Hold Me Now),” so I’ll highlight that song as the must-download track. But, you’ll want the whole album.



For Fans Of:

Hillsong Worship, Bethel MusicJeremy RiddleElevation WorshipJesus Culture



Final Word:

People is loaded with several stirring new worship songs that really set me in the proper mindset to praise God for loving me so much that He gave His life away for all that was lost. I really enjoy the exciting musical vibe of this album, the melodies are catchy, and the lyrics are prayerful. The album is loaded with stellar vocals, catchy melodies and solid lyrics reflecting unashamed faith in Jesus. These are very passionate worship songs sung with vocal sincerity and reverence with biblically inspired lyrics. There are several instantly sing-able and worshipful arrangements that you'll want to add to your Sunday morning set-list. I especially recommend "Ready or Not," “Might Sound Wild,” “Clean,” “As You Find Me,” “Starts and Ends,” “Another in the Fire,” “Good Grace,” and one of my top worship songs of the year, "Whole Heart (Hold Me Now)." I eagerly await each new Hillsong UNITED release, and People is a truly stellar offering of worship. If you want to experience a fresh, biblically-inspired and Jesus focused worship album, look no further. The album is a wonderful reminder that there is immeasurably more to our God that we can think or imagine, and this album captures that sentiment. This album is a must-have addition to your worship collection, creating moments of deep connection with Jesus.





Buy People on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.

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Rhythms of Rest | Posted March-28-2019
What You Need to Know:

From the beginning,  Bethel Music's Amanda Lindsey Cook has had a desire to make music that matters, that stretches beyond entertainment, and also stretches the parameters of popular worship music. She strives to be a listener first, and then to create music that reflects the Gospel and communicates honest experiences in a fresh and artful way.

 

What it Sounds Like:

I first heard Amanda sing on Bethel Music’s Be Lifted High with her song “I Will Exalt,” and then was captivated by her song “You Make Me Brave” on Bethel Music’s You Make Me Brave. She slays me with her confessional and prayerful vocal style - give the album a few deep listens and you'll love it. I hang on every single word, and the stirring vocals, prayerful lyrics and musical arrangements are breath-taking. This is a great new collection of very heartfelt and introspective songs - it is reflective and worshipful, and a great addition to your worship collection in the vein of The Undoing by Steffany GretzingerWhere His Light Was by Kristene DiMarco and Brave New World by Amanda Cook.

 

Spiritual Highlights:

Opening track “Awakening” is an unashamed declaration of faith about Amanda's awakening to God’s mercies that are new every morning. She tenderly sings “You’re redeeming everything,” about her source of hope, Jesus. Each song is a worshipful response to her Savior reflecting the blessed hope of someone who understands the Good News of grace. Her song “Not Going Anywhere” is a great reminder of God’s unconditional love for us. This worship anthem captivates me with it's honesty and stirring lyrics, and has quickly become a prayerful anthem in my daily devotional time.

 

Best Song on the Record:

“Awakening” is a gorgeous faith statement. The song compels me to worship Jesus and profess my own appreciation for His pure love. It is a gorgeous profession of Amanda’s sincere desire to serve Jesus, and I get completely overwhelmed in the emotion of this song. Right from the opening notes, you’ll be captivated by the melody and message. Amanda pours her heart out in every single song, which allows listeners to eavesdrop on her expressing her deep feelings, insecurities, and desire for holiness directly to God. I really enjoy how this album tells the story of redemption, as each song gives a glimpse of Amanda’s personal walk with Jesus, and I’m stopped in my tracks by “House on a Hill.” Amanda passionately sings the song and I hear in her voice a prayer of gratitude and commitment as she gives her gifts back to Him.

 

For Fans Of:

Steffany GretzingerLauren DaigleBethel MusicKristene DiMarcoKim Walker-Smith

 

Final Word:

This is an excellent set of songs that focus on the central themes of asking God to inhabit our inner being and truly allowing the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us along with relying solely on the love of Jesus to truly mold our hearts and make us more like Him. I really love how expressive these songs are. Amanda loves a lot, and that is evident throughout this stellar “gourmet” offering. These are all stand-out tracks filled with overwhelming biblical truth, and are companions in my personal prayer and worship time. Amanda sings songs with an amazing passion and with unashamed praise and gratitude to our Savior - it  is very inspiring and emotionally moving. All of these songs are poignant and powerful with earnest, worshipful lyrics. House on a Hill is one of the top worship albums of the year and is a moving and prayerful worship experience.





Buy House On A Hill on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.

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Spirit-led and Emotionally Captivating | Posted March-07-2019
What You Need to Know:

Since I first heard "New Song We Sing" by Meredith Andrews from The Invitation, I was hooked by the emotional and biblical messages of her songs. Following a three year wait after her album Deeper, it’s exciting to hear new music from Meredith. Faith and Wonder showcases not only Meredith's gifts as a songwriter, but her shimmering, emotion-laden voice. Meredith has consistently impressed me with her mature faith, and a sincere desire for the presence of God and to see His Kingdom on earth is found in every song. Each track is about proclaiming her dependence on God, which stirs my heart, mind and soul to bow before Jesus in “faith and wonder.”

 

What it Sounds Like:

Faith and Wonder is best described as an intimate personal worship experience with an ethereal tone. If you enjoy Blackout by Steffany GretzingerWhere His Light Was by Kristene DiMarco and Brave New World by Amanda Cook, this album is an excellent addition to your praise and worship collection. “A Million Saints” is an engaging song with Meredith’s passionate vocals setting the tone for this exceptional album. Several of Meredith’s songs over the years are accessible worship songs that are deep in meaning and content, and this album is no exception. Many people can relate to the messages of these songs. I'm moved by the prayerful song "Faith and Wonder," which features UPPERROOM’s Abbie Simmons, and the song proclaims my heart's cry to worship Jesus. All of these songs and their dependence on God have perfectly poetic biblical descriptions of God and our identity in Him, and Meredith’s vocals are strong and pure.

 

Spiritual Highlights:

Meredith has consistently impressed me with her mature faith and sincere desire to serve Jesus. You'll be blessed by these powerful songs, which are all stand-out anthems with convicting declarations. The message of “A Million Saints” is based on several biblical truths, including Philippians 2:10-11: “So when His name is called, every knee will bow, in heaven, on earth, and below. And every tongue will confess "Jesus, the Anointed One, is Lord," to the glory of God our Father!"

 

Whatever struggle or depression you are facing, you can know that God is with you, always. The comfort and rest offered by 
Jesus is beautifully captured in “Faith and Wonder.” Along with Abbie Simmons and Cody Ray Lee, Meredith beautifully depicts the message of our identity in Christ by proclaiming the only Name that we all need: “The only word my life will live to tell…Full of faith and wonder/I will say no other Name but Yours, Jesus, Jesus.”

 

I can't get enough of "Open Over Us," which expresses the tone for Meredith’s entire worship experience with a beautiful declaration of dependence on God's provision in our lives: “Heaven’s open over us, right here, right now, we say Yes to You, whatever You want to do. You can have my whole heart, Jesus, have it all." I get swept up in the vertical praise and worship to our Savior that's present in this song. “Who Could” bookends this worshipful offering by singing the song of a million saints now and for eternity, “Worthy is the Lamb.”


 

Best Song on the Record:

Open Over Us” includes the sincere and emotive lyrics of submission in the bridge: "We give You access to our hearts, You give us access to all You are.” The song has a striking message that stays with you throughout the day. This song is an excellent companion to sing over your life: “Heaven’s open over us, no fear, no doubt Your love is all around!” The exciting musical bed of “A Million Saints” takes me on an emotional journey that causes me to excitedly worship along with the stirring lyrics every time I hear the song.



For Fans Of:

Steffany Gretzinger, Lauren Daigle, Bethel MusicAmanda CookKristene DiMarcoKim Walker-Smith



Final Word: 

I absolutely love Meredith's intentionality and complete focus on God's provision in her life. She is a uniquely gifted singer/songwriter with a big voice that is memorable and dynamic, yet intimate. Faith and Wonder is about proclaiming the majesty of God and crying out in awe and wonder for His Presence. All of the songs are memorable, personal and worshipful, and these moving and reverent recordings are poignant songs of adoration. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. Meredith's powerful and gorgeous vocals keep me hanging on every word she sings. The standout songs each feature an engaging and emotive musical style while phrasing her prayer-filled songs in a creative and personal way, making it one of my top worship albums of the year. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the prayerful lyrics found in these sacred songs. Meredith’s vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus on Jesus. If you like female singers that make you think while you enjoy their catchy and empowering songs, Faith and Wonder is for you.



Buy Faith And Wonder on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.


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New Stories of Wonders | Posted February-20-2019
What You Need to Know:

After several years as a worship leader with Elevation Worship, London Gatch released her debut singles "Jesus Only You" and "You Never Walk Away," leading into her full-length album, New Stories. London and her husband, Lance, welcomed a new phase of life - she entered into motherhood and moved back home to Charleston, South Carolina - and is now serving at Seacoast Church. "God has taken me on quite a journey over the last decade of leading worship, and one of the many challenges I've faced is being a female worship leader," London explains. "I feel very strongly that God has given me a voice to empower women around the world to dig deeper in their relationship with Him and to find their strength and confidence in Him alone. The perfect love of Jesus drives out our fear and insecurity. We don't need the approval of man. All we need is the love of Jesus."

 

What it Sounds Like:

New Stories is best described as an intimate personal worship experience with an ethereal tone. If you enjoy Where His Light Was by Kristene DiMarco, Brave New World by Amanda Cook, or Blackout by Steffany Gretzinger, this album is an excellent addition to your praise and worship collection.

 

Spiritual Highlights:

Since her time with Elevation Worship, London has consistently impressed me with her mature faith and sincere desire to serve Jesus, a sincere desire for the presence of God, and  a longing to see His Kingdom on earth is found in every song. Each of her songs is about proclaiming her dependence on God throughout this incredible worship experience, which stirs my heart, mind, and soul to bow before Jesus, our Savior. The album is designed to be listened to in track order, as you’ll go on a journey with London from the opener “New Stories” with the declaration-“In the presence of our God, anything can happen/Let Your spirit fall, with the power of heaven/When Your kingdom comes, anything can happen/So let it happen here,”  to the closer “Oh What Perfect Love” with the confession By Your Holy Spirit You have called us as Your own/In Your love, we're not alone.” I am moved by the reminder that “I could not save myself but You found me at the cross where You loved me first. Oh, You love me with Your perfect love.” The chorus of “Jesus Only You” was inspired by Psalm 8:1 (NLT): “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.”



Best Song on the Record:

I can’t get enough of “Jesus Only You” which is a sincere offering of praise back to the Lord and an expression of our desire to seek His face, feel His peace, and hear His voice. Jesus loves us so much He came down and took our punishment so that we can be with Him forever. He wants to give us life and never let us go. What a reason to have comfort in our Savior and know that He's by our side. Worship is about giving God our best, offering all of ourselves to Him. All we can do is submit to Him and give everything we have to Him. According to God's Word in Jeremiah 29:13, we need to search for God with all of our heart, and we will find Him. All we need is faith, and God will show us what He has planned for us. He's the author of our lives and knows what's best for us, much better than we do. As I listen to this song, I'm challenged to seek God’s face, lift my eyes to the Lord, and sing: “I lift my hands as high as I can raise them, And I will sing as loud as I can sing, So let my praises be my declaration, I worship You and You alone are King.



For Fans Of:

Elevation Worship, Bethel MusicAmanda CookKristene DiMarcoKim Walker-Smith, Steffany Gretzinger



Final Word:

New Stories is about proclaiming the majesty of God and crying out in awe and wonder for His presence. As “New Stories” proclaims, “Oh come Holy Spirit, You’re setting us free.” God wants to inhabit our praises, and these anthems provide several wonderful ways to “sing a new song to the Lord,” expressing “new stories of wonders.” All of the songs are memorable, personal and worshipful. These moving and reverent recordings are all prayers and personal confessions of submission to God, and they are poignant songs of adoration. Every song is completely anointed, Spirit-led and emotionally captivating. London’s powerful and gorgeous vocals keep me hanging on every word she sings, and she invites listeners into her life by sharing what's on her heart. The standout songs each feature an engaging and emotive musical style while phrasing her prayer-filled songs in a creative and personal way, making it one of my top worship albums of the year.





Buy New Stories on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.

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Jesus-Focused Truth | Posted November-15-2018
What You Need to Know:

Known for their energetic and worshipful live shows and their recent hit songs “Just Be Held,” “Oh My Soul,” “One Step Away,” and “Thrive,” Casting Crowns returns with a worshipful project, Only Jesus. The very relatable and transparent words of these songs perfectly depict our daily walks as believers, all wrapped around catchy songs. All of the tracks display musical and lyrical excellence, and the intentionality of Casting Crowns. These are catchy melodies and biblically-based lyrics reflecting unashamed faith. Every song on this stellar collection displays the band’s heart for what they do, leading people in worship of our Savior and reminding us as believers that “I don’t want to leave a legacy, I don’t care if they remember me, “Only Jesus.”



What it Sounds Like:

This band can really write a hooky and truth-filled chorus, and lead single “Only Jesus” is catchy, relevant and worshipful similar to previous hit songs “Who Am I,” “Voice of Truth” and “East to West.” The song is a great call to worship, and a fresh offering of praise for the Church. The bridge is very stirring and convicting: “Jesus is the only name, Jesus is the only name, Jesus is the only name to remember.” “In The Hands of the Potter” features Mark Hall’s tender and powerful vocals while taking listeners on an emotional and spiritual journey with every lyric sung about faith in our God Almighty, our Lord and Savior - only Jesus. If you’ve always liked Casting Crowns, this album will absolutely connect with you.



Spiritual Highlights:

I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the deep, prayerful lyrics throughout the album, especially the chorus of the title track: “I don’t want to leave a legacy, I don’t care if they remember me, only Jesus.” Those prayerful words set the tone for these songs that are Jesus-focused Truth. “The Bridge” reminds us “With love we earn the right to speak Your truth, it’s not just what we say, it’s what we do.” Other highlights include “In the Hands of the Potter,” “Even When You’re Running,” “One More Song for You,” “Awaken Me,” and “Start Right Here.” The poignant “Awaken Me” is a stirring song with a convicting declaration: “Wake up the sleeper, Your search lights found me…shine down in all Your glory, awaken me." Like previous Crowns’ albums, these songs are all filled with spiritual truth. The hope of the Gospel is heard loud and clear (“The Father made the way for you, the Son killed the grave for you, let the Spirit come alive in you, are you tired of running?”)  in the standout “Even When You’re Running.”



Best Song on the Record:

“Start Right Here” is an upbeat and challenging song in the vein of “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” and “The Altar and the Door,” among my favorite Casting Crowns songs. I find myself singing the worshipful lyrics throughout the day, “What if the church on Sunday was still the church on Monday too?”  The ballad “One More Song for You” is an especially beautiful song. The faith anthem is the cry of my heart - “As long as there’s breath in me, Lord there will always be, one more song for You.” There are several stand-out songs, and “Only Jesus” is a gorgeous offering of praise to the only One who has power to save. It is a very sing-able song, and I love singing, “But all an empty world can sell is empty dreams, I got lost in the lie that it was up to me, to make a name the world remembers, but Jesus is the only name to remember.” That’s cause to stir your heart and sing at the top of your lungs, “And I don’t want to leave a legacy, I don’t care if they remember me, Only Jesus.”



For Fans Of:

Big Daddy Weave, MercyMe, Matthew West, Tenth Avenue North



Final Word: 

This new album demonstrates once again the passion and energy that have made Casting Crowns one of Christian music's most compelling acts. True to form, new project Only Jesus reflects real life and emotion, from longing and struggle to breakthrough and gratitude. Front man Mark Hall’s forthright songwriting and intimate and unmistakable vocals are backed by powerful arrangements and stellar musicianship. The album derives its power from the fact that life and music intertwine so fully. These are very passionate worship songs sung with vocal sincerity and reverence, with biblically based lyrics, and there are several instantly sing-able and worshipful arrangements. This album is Casting Crowns’ crowning achievement, and one of my top albums of the year.



Buy Only Jesus on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.


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Franny’s Very Best | Posted October-24-2018

What You Need to Know:

Since I first heard "Free to be Me" by Francesca Battistelli from My Paper Heart, I was hooked by the emotional and biblical messages of her songs. Four years after her top-selling album If We’re Honest, it’s exciting to hear new music from Francesca, though this album was preceded by "The Breakup Song" as a radio single. The musical vibe of that song sets the tone for this exceptional album, which is not be missed. Franny has once again captivated me as Own It features her unique brand of gourmet lyrical phrasing embedded with the truth of the Gospel for those "with ears to hear." The album showcases Franny's gifts as a songwriter and her shimmering, emotion-laden voice. She is a great role model for girls, and this album is loaded with positive, grace-filled messages of hope. Her songs address the pressures of life and she understands that her true happiness and identity only come from her relationship with God.

 

What it Sounds Like:

The Breakup Song” is an engaging track with Francesca’s passionate vocals setting the tone for this exceptional album. Several of Francesca’s songs over the years are accessible pop and worship songs while still deep in meaning and content, and this album is no exception. Many people can relate to the messages of these songs. The standouts include “The Very Best,” “Love Somebody,” “Royalty,” “This Could Change Everything,” “You Belong” and “Let The Light In.” I'm moved by the prayerful song "Defender," which features Bethel Music’s Steffany Gretzinger. The song proclaims my heart's cry to worship our Defender, Jesus. All of these songs and their dependence on God have perfectly poetic biblical descriptions of God and our identity in Him as His sons and daughters, which is what makes us “Royalty.” Francesca’s vocals are strong and pure from beginning to end. The production on these ultra-catchy pop songs could easily be featured in mainstream music alongside top-selling artists.

 

Spiritual Highlights:

Francesca has consistently impressed me with her mature faith and sincere desire to serve Jesus. You'll be blessed by these powerful songs which are all stand-out anthems with convicting declarations like "“Fear, you don’t own me!”  The message of “The Breakup Song” is based on several biblical truths, including 1 John 4:18-19: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us,” and 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Whatever struggle or depression you are facing, you can know that God is with you, always. The comfort and rest offered by Jesus is beautifully captured in “You Belong.” Franny beautifully depicts the message of identity that we all need to hear, singing “Every single melody, making up a symphony, fearfully and wonderfully, making up a masterpiece.”

 

Best Song on the Record:

The Breakup Song” is best described as an upbeat, empowering anthem to sing over ourselves and against fear. Francesca sets the tone with the opening lyrics, “Sick and tired of being sick and tired / Had as much of you as I can take / I’m so done, so over being afraid.” Musically, the song builds to match the intensity of the lyrics, and if you like “Real Love” by Blanca, this song has a similar and striking message that stays with you throughout the day. The track is an excellent companion to sing over your life, “Fear, you will never be welcome here!” The exciting musical bed of “Love Somebody” takes me on an emotional journey that causes me to excitedly worship along with the stirring lyrics every time I hear it. In our society filled with war, bullying and a lack of care for others, this anthem is the cry of my heart with the much-needed call to action message for Christians: “When you really show them Jesus, it can change everything, everything, when you love somebody, a little bit of kindness goes a long way.” “Let the Light In” is another standout anthem, reminding us that “Heaven knows that we were never meant to be alone, broken hearts are a beautiful kaleidoscope…this is a song to remind me to let the light in.”  The message of finding “Freedom” in Christ is found in the closing track, which celebrates “You made me for freedom!



For Fans Of:

Blanca, Lauren Daigle, Riley Clemmons, Plumb, Mandisa, Jasmine Murray



Final Word:

I absolutely love Francesca's intentionality and complete focus on God's provision in her life. She is a uniquely gifted singer/songwriter with a big voice that is memorable and dynamic, yet intimate. These songs all have biblically-based lyrics that poignantly capture life's simple, yet vital messages. I'm really engaged by the emotional vocals and the prayerful lyrics found in these sacred songs. Francesca’s vocals will soothe your soul, and the vertical lyrics will direct your attention and focus to Jesus. There are several personal songs that melt my heart, especially “You Belong,” “Let the Light In,” “As Good As It Gets,” and “Defender.” If you like female singers that make you think while you enjoy their catchy and empowering songs, Own It is for you. I have three young daughters, and this is a solid upbeat pop album with positive biblical messages that is a great alternative to mainstream pop artists. This is easily my top pop album of the year, and Francesca’s “very best” overall album.



Buy it on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.




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Choose joy. | Posted October-04-2018
What You Need to Know:

Following up two successful full-length albums with a string of hit songs including “The Proof of Your Love,” “Fix My Eyes,” “Shoulders,” and “Priceless,” Burn the Ships is for KING & COUNTRY’s much anticipated third album. The album once again demonstrates multi-talented musicianship with creative, insightful lyrics and ear-grabbing melodies.

 

What it Sounds Like:

The vibe of the album is a highlight with signature musicality and harmony-filled vocals layered throughout every track. After the ambient instrumental opener “Introit” which flows into the song “joy,” the album features a soothing and worshipful alt-rock style resembling the latest offerings by Coldplay, NEEDTOBREATHE and Mat Kearney. This entire project has a Brit-rock tinged worshipful vibe. I’m really engaged by the sincere and soothing vocals and the prayerful lyrics throughout the album.

 

Spiritual Highlights:

The album features the emotionally powerful track “God Only Knows,” which is one of the highlights. The message is relatable: “God only knows what you’ve been through…God only knows the real you, there’s a kind of love that God only knows. “joy” is easily one of my top FK&C songs, with an upbeat hook and infectious melody. I can’t get enough of the vibe and biblical message of the song, especially the lyrics, “I need the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart to stay.” As a fruit of the Spirit, God wants us to “choose joy.” Another empowering sentiment is “Fight on Fighter, the Spirit is alive inside you!”

 

Best Song on the Record:

“Amen” grabs my attention. I love the build to the lyrics, “I’m coming alive with You, all the people say, Amen”. “God Only Knows” speaks to me in my most emotional moments of needing to hear God’s truth sung over me. “joy” is the type of song I find myself singing throughout the day; one of my daily prayers is to ask God to indwell my family and I with His spiritual gifts, and “joy” aligns perfectly with that desire that God has put in my heart. Personally, my favorite song is the title track, “Burn the Ships.” I have adopted the anthem as my daily prayer: “Step into a new day, we can rise up from the dust and walk away, we can dance upon a heart ache, so light a match, leave the past, burn the ships, and don’t you look back.” God has made us new creations in Christ, and that sentiment of submission to Him is captured in “Control,” which sings “I can’t do this on my own. I give up control.”

 

For Fans Of:

NEEDTOBREATHE, Hillsong UNITED, Mat Kearney, Switchfoot



Final Word:

It’s important as believers that others around us see light reflected in our lives - in our words, actions, behaviors, and even our thoughts. That’s what Romans 12:2 and this album are all about, encouraging us to “burn the ships” of our past mistakes that we often align ourselves with. Don’t conform to the patterns of this world. That’s darkness. Our enemy seeks to destroy us with darkness. Instead, “choose joy.” I really enjoy the soothing and ambient musical vibe of this album, and the melodies and lyrics are all catchy and biblical. Musically the album doesn’t conform to the pattern of typical CCM music. Don’t miss out on this gem, because it is one of the top albums of the year.



But it on Apple Music or stream it on Spotify.

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Find Your Hope in God | Posted September-14-2018
What You Need to Know:

Following up her debut Unbreakable Smile, Tori Kelly delivers Hiding Place, an R&B-infused, infectiously melodic take on classic gospel. The album features Kelly teaming up with 12-time Grammy Award-winning gospel legend Kirk Franklin.

 

What it Sounds Like:

She was the 2016 Grammy Award nominee for Best New Artist, and this album gripped me right from the opening track with Kelly’s strong and emotive vocals wrapped around gospel truth. If you like CCM powerhouse vocalists Blanca, Lauren Daigle and Mandisa, or pop singers Meghan Trainor, Kelly Clarkson and Alessia Cara, you’ll be absolutely blessed and engaged by every note of every song.

 

Spiritual Highlights:

Biblical truth is woven through every word of every song right from the opening track, “Masterpiece” featuring Lecrae. The upbeat song proclaims lyrics about our identity found in Christ - “when You look at me, do You see a work of art in the making?” expressing truth from Ephesians 2:10 (NLT): "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago." In the standout song “Psalm 42,” Kelly beautifully sings the powerful ballad expressing the Bible passage, “As the deer pants for the water so my soul needs You Lord.”  Psalm 42:11 says “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” The Bible and songs like this are meant to be encouragement to know that there is always hope ahead. Most of all, we need to remember that God is the source of all hope, it doesn't come from anything we can do, and we need to believe. The desire to see God’s plans revealed is beautifully phrased in the tender ballad, “Questions” as Tori achingly sings “I have so many questions. I don't know where to begin, since You were there at the beginning, You already know the end.”

 

Best Song on the Record:

“Never Alone” features Kirk Franklin. I can’t get enough of the catchy melody which causes me to sing along loudly with Tori: “I know somebody, He calls me His own, I can hear heaven singing out, Oh, you're never alone!”  The album has an exceptional set of songs based on truth that deal with the identity struggle we all face of knowing that as children of God, we are made in His image, and we are made whole only by His love. We are all in need of God to fix our beautiful mess in some way, and the beauty of grace is that it is not something we deserve or can earn. I love to sing along with this song with all of my heart: “My imperfections were a part of Your plan, And if all things work together in the end, The broken will be beautiful.”  

 

For Fans Of:

BlancaLauren DaigleMandisaJasmine Murray



Final Word: 

Kelly shared about her album “I want them to know that, no matter what they’re going through, there’s a God who loves them so much and so unconditionally, and there’s always a reason to feel hope. That’s what I really believe in, and I want everyone out there to hear my heart.” The album has many songs about being made in God's image and not seeking society's approval or “putting our hope in material things,” but knowing that God created and loves us all as we are. Hiding Place does a wonderful job of challenging the world's definition of satisfaction and acknowledging our doubts, struggles, pain and “questions,” while also acknowledging that Jesus is the answer to all that we want and need. The theme of the album is to find your hope in God from Psalm 42, and this album is loaded with positive, grace-filled messages of hope from someone who understands that true happiness only comes from her relationship with God. Do yourself a favor and get this album immediately.

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